Silence filled the ward on a warm spring day as Glover sat in his bed by the window glancing out at the daffodils below in the gardens. He sighed every few moments in silent agony, wishing he were outside with a beautiful woman rather than next to Roy Figgis who was reading yet another socialist article in his magazine, or near Norman Binns, who despite being pleasant enough, was always making something with his hands, this time weaving a basket, his eyes concentrating on his work and his little tongue peeking out from the side of his mouth.
Finally, after a long period of not speaking and another sigh from Glover, Figgis looked up from his newspaper. “You hear about this new doctor that’s causing a stir on the wards?”
“I have as a matter of fact,” Norman said, his eyes looking up from the basket and toward Figgis, “heard he’s quite something.”
“New doctor, who is he?” Glover asked, suddenly sitting upright and to attention.
“Dr. Love,” said Norman.
“Dr. Love? I can’t be examined by someone called Dr. Love!”
“Better than someone called Dr. Death,” Figgis said. “Well, anyway, that’s him. Dr. Love has set the hearts of this hospital aflutter which is not going down well in cardiology.”
“He can’t be all that popular, surely?” Glover said.
“Heard the nurses talking about him when they were taking my blood pressure,” Figgis said.
“And I heard the patients talking about him in the day room. Quite the charmer so I hear,” Norman added.
“Probably just a temporary infatuation. The place has become stale and everyone’s looking to this new doctor for excitement,” Glover reasoned. “He’s probably as dull as dishwater, you mark my words.”
At that moment, the door swung open and Gupte scurried into the room with another man following. It was not Mr. Thorpe as was usual to be accompanying him, but a man in his late thirties with dark hair, tanned skin, and wearing a smart suit under his white coat.
“Gentlemen, this is Dr. Love,” Gupte said, gushing as he introduced him. “Dr. Love is new here so we should treat him with much respect.”
“Oh, so you’re the famous Dr. Love?” Figgis said, sitting to attention and glancing wryly at his two fellow patients.
Dr. Love stood at the foot of Figgis’ bed and smiled widely. “Hello gents. I promise I’ll not get in your way. Just came in to see how you all were. Just so you know, my hands are always warm and there’s permanently a smile on my face.”
Figgis and Glover exchanged suspicious glances.
“And who have I the pleasure of meeting, old sport?” Dr. Love said, sitting on the edge of Norman’s bed and grinning at him. He looked at his notes and nodded. “Norman Binns is it? Appendicitis, a mild infection too, but nothing too serious I’m pleased to hear.”
“Yes, doctor, that’s me,” Norman blushed and smiled. “I’ve never been summed up by my ailments before.”
“Sure, you have other qualities, Norman. And with a smile like that, I’m sure all the nurses find you a bit of a distraction eh?” he nudged Norman who blushed again, sensing both Figgis and Glover staring in his direction.
Dr. Love slapped his own knees and then stood up. “Right, well I better be off fellas. Many more patients to meet. Take it easy, gents, speedy recovery. And don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” He winked.
As Gupte and Dr. Love were about to leave they collided with a red-faced and breathless Dr. Thorpe. “There you are, Gupte, I’ve been searching for you everywhere.”
“I’m right here, Dr. Thorpe. I was showing Dr. Love around the ward. He is a very kind man.”
“Is he indeed?” Dr. Thorpe looked his fellow doctor up and down in contempt. “Yes, so I hear.”
“Dr. Love is very appreciative of my talents.” Gupte muttered under his breath. “Unlike some people.”
“And he’s an angel of the hospital. Keep up the good work, Guptie,” Dr. Love said as he carried on to the door and saluted Dr. Thorpe before leaving. A moment later, Gupte sauntered away in very high-spirits.
Dr. Thorpe grumbled. “Do you believe that man?”
“You mean his excellent bedside manner? I grant you it’s unusual in a place like this,” Figgis said.
Thorpe ignored him and read over Glover’s notes. “Comes in here like he owns this hospital. The nurses are falling by his feet as if he has some sort of contagion. Makes one wonder what he’s done to get to this position.”
Glover folded his arms. “I’m inclined to agree.”
There was a snort from Figgis. “I might have known it’d be you two. Look at you, he’s been here five minutes and already you’ve got your claws in. He seems a nice hard-working man, tries to put the patients at ease and all you can do is criticise. You’re both just jealous!”
“Jealous? Preposterous!” Glover protested. “He’s simply too good to be true. No one’s that nice without an ulterior motive, Roy.”
Norman leaned over. “Well I think Fig’s right. A man can be honest, nice and charming without wanting anything, Archie. I think he’s rather wonderful.”
“You only spoke to him for two minutes,” Thorpe added.
“Two minutes was quite enough, doctor.”
Thorpe scowled. “What do you know, you’re just a boy!” He turned on his heels and hurried out of the room, harrumphing as he departed.
“He didn’t like that, did he?” Figgis said, laughing to himself.
“Do you blame him? His authority’s been taken away by someone who is younger than he. And that man is far too familiar with the patients. It’s not right,” Glover said.
After dinner which consisted of boiled fish followed by semolina, Norman, Figgis, and Glover leaned back in their chairs.
“I can’t eat any more of this muck,” Glover said, putting down his spoon which was still covered in the unpleasant pudding.
“Hello fellas!” Dr. Love’s joyous booming voice echoed in the space. As the three patients turned to face him, they could see he was ready for home, dressed in a leather jacket and a pair of tight stonewash jeans. He also had a pair of designer sunglasses placed on the top of his t-shirt. “Just thought I’d say goodbye for the evening before I head off.”
He pulled out a chair, placed it back to front and sat next to Norman, laying his arms across the back of the hard-wooden surface. “Norman! How’s my favourite patient?”
“I don’t know, who is he?”
There was a loud chuckle from the doctor. “No, I mean you. You’re my favourite patient.”
“Oh.” Norman blushed. “Well, I’m good, thank you, doctor.”
“Hard to believe you’re sick at all, old sport. You look the image of good health and a picture of innocence.”
Norman smiled and looked over at Glover smugly.
“And you’re looking very well too, Glover. You’re taking very good care of that moustache, I see.”
Glover stroked his facial hair with pride. “Oh…why thank you.”
“And Figgis, I’m sure it won’t be long until you’re out there painting the town red.”
“The town will be red if they let me out, stained by my blood. I’m still not right from this operation, doctor, I’m not joined up properly.”
With a deep chuckle, Dr. Love reached across and patted Figgis on the shoulder. “Your sense of humour is what any doctor orders.”
“I wasn’t joking,” Figgis muttered quietly but by then the doctor was on his feet and glancing at his watch.
“Well, better run, taking the old motorbike for a spin.”
“You have a motorbike?” Norman asked.
“Yes, you ever ridden one, Norman?”
“No. I did sit on once but it was stationary.”
Dr. Love laughed again. “Well perhaps when you’re better you can take a ride with me eh?”
“Oh yes please!”
Holding open the door, Dr. Love smiled as he turned back to face them, his white teeth gleaming under the lights. “Catch you fellas tomorrow.”
When he was gone, there was a sudden silence as the three men tried to take in what had just happened. They looked at each other, not sure what to say.
“Blimey,” Figgis finally began, “he’s a bit much.”
“He called me his favourite patient,” Norman said, starry-eyed as he made his way dreamily back to his bed and climbed under the covers. He held his blanket up to his cheeks.
Glover and Figgis followed suit, both climbing into their own beds.
“He probably says that to all the patients, Norman,” Figgis said.
Glover frowned. “He’s never said it to me.”
“He’s so handsome, isn’t he?” Norman said, ignoring Glover. “I suppose he’s the sort of man women want to be and men want to be with…” He paused. “Wait, I got that wrong, didn’t I?”
Figgis smirked. “Are you sure about that?”
“I don’t think he is all that handsome,” Glover began, “I mean I suppose he has good bone structure and those soft blue eyes but that’s no need for all the nurses to go to pieces over him.”
Figgis grabbed his book and flicked through the pages. “Well beauty is only skin deep, isn’t it? Surface layer is just that…the surface. Once you peel the layers like an old onion, only then do you get the real person inside. Not all of us can be the good surface layer.”
“You certainly can’t,” Glover said with a chuckle, clearly amused with himself.
“Well I think you’re both wrong about him. I think he’s just as beautiful in his heart as he is on the outside,” said Norman.
“Blimey, Norman, could he get any higher on that pedestal you’ve put him on?” Figgis said.
Norman scowled. “Oh, shut up Fig! I just like him that’s all.”
“Besides, Norman, nobody’s perfect. It’s impossible. He must have an Achilles heel as it were,” Glover said.
“His heels are probably perfect too.” Norman didn’t see the pillow flying towards his face. It hit him square on the jaw.
It was early the next morning when the three patients were greeted with the sound of a beautiful singing voice as they got ready for their check-ups. It was Dr. Love and instead of Gilbert and Sullivan, he was singing love songs.
“Hope I haven’t disturbed your peace,” he said as he stood by Norman.
“Oh no, doctor, I like hearing you sing.”
“Pyjama sleeve rolled up, Norman, time for a blood pressure check. Can’t have my favourite patient not to his best.”
“So, Dr. Love,” Figgis said. “Are you like this with all your patients or is it just reserved for us?”
“I find it’s best to be fair to all and put everyone at ease. Norman, your heart is racing.” He pulled out his stethoscope to check, placing the cold instrument against Norman’s chest. “There it goes, like a train. Hmmm, bit fast for my liking. I’ll put you in for some tests. You know it’s strange but ever since I’ve been here, everyone seems to have increased heart rates.”
He next got up to check Figgis. “And how are you today? Any problems in the night?”
“Only that I’m not…”
“Joined up properly? Yes, other than that? You’re a fine person, Mr. Figgis, none of that kind of ‘not joined up’ talk.”
After checking over Figgis, Dr. Love finally reached Glover who was leaning away from him, apprehensive to his looming figure.
“Moustache still looking good, Glover.” Dr. Love looked over Glover’s notes and smiled. “I think you’ll be out smelling those daffodils any time now.”
“Doctor, now that you’re here does that mean you’ll be taking over our care instead of Thorpe?” Figgis asked.
Dr. Love leaned over and whispered. “Just between you and me, they’re thinking of an early retirement for Thorpe. Personally, I’m not for that sort of thing but its not up to me.”
“That’s disgraceful,” Glover said, eavesdropping. “A pillar of society being laid to pasture like that.”
“Well, he does have a habit of performing mistakes during operations but if it were up to me, re-training would be the answer.”
“That’s very good of you,” Norman said. “I do feel bad for Dr. Thorpe.”
“Don’t you worry, Norman. He’ll be alright while I’m here keeping an eye on him.” Dr. Love stood up and exited the room.
“I must say I’m strangely coming around to him, Norman,” Glover said. “Smartly dressed, well-mannered, cares about the profession. I’m finding it hard to believe he does have anything wrong with him.”
“Nah, he must have something,” Figgis said.
“You’ve changed your tune,” Glover said. “I thought he was salt of the earth, hard-working and not to be mocked?”
“Ah well he just lays it on a bit thick. I just mean he must be bad at something or get annoyed by something. It’s just human nature.”
“Maybe he isn’t really a person at all,” Norman said.
“What are you on about?” Figgis said.
“Well, he could be an angel sent from the heavens to watch over us?”
“He’s not looking over me,” Glover said with panic. “I’m not going there yet!”
“No, just to watch out for us, on earth.”
Figgis sighed. “Well this spell he’s got over the hospital can’t last. Next week there’ll be a magical porter who waves his wand and we’re at his mercy.”
“I don’t want a porter waving his wand at me, Roy,” Glover said.
“I just mean, out with the old, in with the new. Circle of life.”
Hunched over, his head held low, Norman Binns wandered into the ward and sighed, sitting down at the table and waiting for the others to inquire after him.
“What’s wrong, Norman?” Figgis said as he pulled out a chair.
“It’s Dr. Love, he’s leaving us.”
“Leaving us, whatever for?” Glover said, surprised at his own disappointment.
“Apparently he’s got a new job in Africa working at a newly built charity hospital.” He sighed and folded his arms grumpily. “All those poor starving orphans are so lucky.”
“Is he coming to say goodbye?” Figgis said.
“I certainly am,” Dr. Love said, appearing behind them. He hadn’t even made a sound as he came into the room. “Couldn’t leave without a goodbye to my favourite patient, eh Norman?”
“So, it is goodbye?”
“’fraid so, but you mustn’t be sad. Where I’m going, I can do real good.” He smiled a wide smile and yet again his gleaming white teeth seemed to ping under the lights. He shook Norman’s hand. “Carry on believing in people, Norman. There are good people out there.”
He next shook hands with Figgis and Glover. “Goodbye gents. Until we meet again.”
Dr. Love saluted and threw his jacket over his shoulder where it rested comfortably. He whistled a merry tune as he left and the ward fell deathly silent.
Suddenly there was a whimper from Glover.
“What’s wrong with you?” Figgis said.
“Nothing, why should something be wrong?”
“Your eyes are watering.”
“It’s…just…just the eyedrops. Oh, I’m feeling too stuffy in here, I need some air.” He left in haste, covering his eyes as he did so.
“He’s going to miss the love doctor,” Figgis said.
“Not as much as I am,” Norman said, clutching his teddy bear. “He was all I ever wanted to be.”
“There’s nothing stopping you from being like him. You can buy a motorcycle and cruise about if you like. There’s a world out there, Norman, go find it.”
“I suppose you’re right, Fig. I can do anything I want to…just so long as mother approves.”
Figgis rolled his eyes and placed his face in his palm.